Family Fun Under the Orlando Sun

For those who are into a high-voltage getaway, there's no better place on earth than Orlando. It's also a destination where you can escape the rigors of daily life and have a chance to bond with the kids. Simply put, Orlando is the family vacation capital of the world. Though this resort town also has myriad golf courses, spas, and shops, everything comes back to family.  Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom

The main market driver here is of course the theme parks, the big reason why more than 48 million people visit central Florida annually. And, there are plenty of them: four at Walt Disney World, two at the Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld and Discovery Cove, plus smaller water parks and attractions like Gatorland.

At Walt Disney World, the newest attraction is the $100 million Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom. Opened just this past year, this fast-paced rollercoaster ride is an adrenaline-pumping adventure that culminates in a close-up encounter with a Yeti. Thrill chasers will also want to be sure to check out the Tower of Terror at Disney-MGM Studios, in which passengers plummet down an elevator shaft. The Magic Kingdom has made some changes to its classic Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride to inject the flavor of the blockbuster films into the experience, and at Epcot there have been numerous changes, including a new Finding Nemo ride.

For an unforgettable encounter, Discovery Cove at SeaWorld Orlando lets you swim with bottle-nosed dolphins and snorkel in a tropical reef. This all-inclusive experience is limited to just 1,000 people per day, making it a highly desired attraction. Space shuttle launch simulation at Kennedy

At Islands of Adventure in Universal Orlando, guests don 3D glasses and fly through New York on the Adventures of Spider-Man, which culminates in a pulse-pounding climax you'll talk about for months. At Universal Studios Florida, a Simpsons ride will debut next year.

Orlando has tricky weather, so it's important to remember to bring plenty of sun block, but you'll also want to bring along ponchos for those mid-afternoon thunderstorms that seem to hit daily between June and September. Also, plot out which rides you'd like to hit in advance of your trip. The most popular attractions are best visited as soon as the park's gates open or mid-afternoon after the crowds start to wane. Downtown Disney

Kennedy Space Center, a great side trip, just opened a $60 million space shuttle launch simulation. For a real out-of- this world experience, visit on a launch day and see a rocket blast off into the heavens.

But be warned: After spending a week in Orlando, you're likely to need a vacation!


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